Achievement-Motivated Behavior in Individual Sports: Evidence for the Construct and Criterion Validity of the AMBIS-I Coach-Rating Scale.

Author:Zuber, Claudia


In talent research, the great importance of psychological variables for a successful development from a young promising to a successful top-level athlete is pointed out. Achievement motivation, in particular, seems to play a critical role for talent development and subsequent success (e.g. Abbott and Collins, 2004; Coetzee et al., 2006; Zuber et al., 2015). Motivational characteristics during training are also highly valued by coaches (Christensen, 2009; Jokuschies et al., 2017) as well as by elite athletes and their parents (MacNamara et al., 2010). However, when it comes to talent selection decisions, the assessment of achievement motivation is associated with significant concerns such as social desirability (see Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019, for a broader discussion of the methodological shortcomings of the different assessment methods). To remediate these methodological shortcomings, we decided to use the long experiences of coaches instead of coming back on the more subjective self-ratings of athletes and to focus on observable achievement-motivated behaviors as opposed to non-directly observable motives. Therefore "a suitable new tool for assessing achievement motivation in the context of selection decisions in sports should be based on coaches' ratings of achievement-motivated behavior" (Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019, p. 3) and thus corresponds to the request to record psychological characteristics by means of observable behavior patterns (Musculus and Lobinger, 2018).

To design a reliable, valid and time-efficient instrument for thoroughly assessing achievement-motivated behaviors in sports, we built upon the act-frequency approach, which relies on the definitions of constructs elaborated by psychological laypersons (Buss and Craik, 1983). In a series of three studies, the final ten-item version of the AMBIS-I coach-rating scale was constructed and checked for reliability, as well as content, factorial and concurrent criterion validity. The three factors proactivity, ambition and commitment presented acceptable to good reliability and good factorial validity. In addition, relationships with athletes' performance level point to the instrument's concurrent criterion validity (Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019). As further evidence for construct and predictive criterion validity of AMBIS-I is still missing to date, the purpose of the current study aims to fill this gap.

Construct validity

Despite the rich theoretical body on achievement motivation, AMBIS-I is the first tool measuring achievement-motivated behavior in sports. So careful construct validation is of high relevance. Construct validity refers to the "degree to which test scores represent an individual's standing on the theoretical construct the test is designed to measure" (Sireci and Sukin, 2013). That is often investigated by checking the "...match between a measure's actual associations with other measures and the associations that the test should have with the other measures" (Furr and Bacharach, 2014).

The three subscales and ten items included in the AMBIS-I coach rating scale were not theory driven, but constructed inductively based on a prototype strategy. According to the requirements of the act-frequency approach (Buss and Craik, 1983), as the instrument was intended to be used by youth elite sports coaches, they were asked for relevant, observable behaviors that best capture the construct achievement motivation (Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019). It was found that instruments constructed with the prototype approach display comparatively good validity coefficients (Broughton, 1984). But how can the three factors of the AMBIS-I be contextualized in the nomological network surrounding the broadly examined construct of achievement motivation? In literature in personality psychology--which includes also motivation--the focus lays mainly on motives and not on situations or behaviors (Furr and Funder, 2010). There is no theory on achievement-motivated behavior in sports either. Therefore, to hypothesize on the position of achievement motivated behavior in the nomological network of achievement motivation, we have to refer to motivational constructs such as motives or achievement goal orientations, even though they don't lie on the same level as behaviors. Rather, motives and goals build the foundation for behavior as it is deduced from the general model of determinants and course of motivated action (Heckhausen and Heckhausen, 2010). In the following section the three AMBIS-I factors are therefore connected with well examined motivational constructs in order to make the assumed relations empirically checkable.

"The factor proactivity refers to getting involved in training processes on one's own initiative and for one's own sake" (Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019, p. 8). The impulse to act is self-determined and does not require an external push, as when an athlete looks for opportunities to catch up on missed training content. Intrinsic motivation as the most self-determined motivation according to self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2000) is characterized by the sensation of immanent pleasure associated with performing an activity for its own sake. On the opposite end of the self-determination continuum, extrinsic motivation pertains to actions triggered by expected consequences, such as fame, honor or prize money. Zuber and Conzelmann (2019) name also connections between proactivity and the concept of achievement goal orientations: A proactive athlete pursues his or her goals perseveringly, as does an athlete which is first on the training grounds and practicing technical processes independently. Achievement goal orientations guide actions towards certain goals, including task and ego orientation (Nicholls, 1984) or mastery and performance orientation (Ames and Archer, 1988), and competitiveness (Gill and Deeter, 1988). As the factor proactivity gives no indication of which goals are being closely pursued, all three discussed goal orientations are conceivable as the origin of proactive behavior. Due to the fact, that those goals are being pursued persistently, Zuber and Conzelmann (2019) assume also a connection to the concept of volition. Processes such as self-motivation and self-regulation are responsible for initiating an action and maintaining it until a specific goal has been achieved, what is especially important in the course of an athletic career (Elbe et al., 2005; Baron-Thiene and Alfermann, 2015). Therefore, starting from this theoretical positioning, it can be assumed that the factor proactivity has connections with self-determination, achievement goal orientations, as well as volitional processes.

"The factor ambition is characterized by the absolute will to successfully pursue self-imposed goals in competitions" (Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019, p. 8). Ambitious athletes aim at winning competitions which is for instance shown by athletes that clearly communicate before the competition that they want to win. If winning is not achieved, the athlete faces disappointment. Thus, the factor ambition shows conceptual similarities to the achievement goal orientations competitiveness and goal orientation (as the goals are self-imposed) and, probably to a smaller extent, ego orientation.

The factor commitment in the setting of training refers to readiness and willingness to perform (Zuber and Conzelmann, 2019). A committed athlete shows an active stance in training and demonstrates his/her will to work hard, to attain a goal, and to pursue a task repeatedly, even in the face of adversity (Scanlan et al., 1993), what again makes its connection with volition obvious (Elbe et al., 2005). Committed athletes also orient towards and compare with stronger athletes, what makes a connection with competitiveness realistic.

The theoretical embedding of the three factors just outlined yields certain assumptions on which already well-examined constructs are related to the achievement-motivated behavior measured with AMBIS-I. In summary, convergent validities of the scales of AMBIS-I with self-determination, achievement goal orientations, and volition are to be expected.

Criterion validity

Concurrent and predictive criterion validity are of particular importance in the context of talent identification and development because potential talent predictors and the tools to assess those talent characteristics should show associations with actual performance and must be able to predict later success or future performance (Buekers et al., 2015; Feichtinger and Honer, 2014; Morris, 2000; Sarmento et al., 2018; Vaeyens et al., 2008).

Previous studies have shown that motivational and volitional characteristics are relevant predictors of current (e.g. Dominguez-Escribano et al., 2017; Erikstad et al., 2018; Feichtinger and Honer, 2014; Gillet et al., 2012; Goncalves et al., 2011) and future performance (e.g. Forsman et al., 2016; Honer and Feichtinger, 2016; Unierzyski, 2003; Zuber and Conzelmann, 2014; Zuber et al., 2015) or dropout (e.g, Sarrazin et al., 2002). Motivational characteristics like achievement goal orientations (e.g. DominguezEscribano et al., 2017; Feichtinger and Honer, 2014; Goncalves et al., 2011; Honer and Feichtinger, 2016; Zuber et al., 2015) and less common self-determination (e.g. Gillet et al., 2012; Zuber et al., 2015) as well as volitional characteristics (e.g. Erikstad et al., 2018; Feichtinger and Honer, 2014; Toering et al., 2009) displayed small to moderate associations to divers performance relevant criteria, including coach ratings, selection to a higher squad, professional contracts and objective performance in competitions. Many of these studies were conducted in team sports (mainly football) (e.g. Erikstad et al., 2018; Feichtinger and Honer, 2014; Forsman et al., 2016; Goncalves et al., 2011; Honer and Feichtinger, 2016; Toering et al., 2009; Zuber et al., 2015). Some studies refer to a mixed sample of team and...

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